Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
And it came to pass, as he went into the house of one of the chief Pharisees to eat bread on the sabbath day, that they watched him.G. The Son of Man Mating and Drinking. LUKE 14:1–24
1. The Healing of the Dropsical Man and the Beginning of the Discourses at Table (Luke 14:1–14)
(Luke 14:1–11, Gospel for the 6th Sunday after Trinity.)
1And it came to pass, as he went into the house of one of the chief Pharisees to eat2bread on the sabbath day, that they watched [were watching] him. And, behold,there was a certain man before him which had the dropsy. 3And Jesus answering spake unto the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day4[or not1]? And they held their peace. And he took him, and healed him, and lethim go; 5And answered them, saying,2 Which of you shall have an ass3 or an ox falleninto a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the sabbath day? 6And they couldnot answer him4 again to these things. 7And he put forth a parable to those which were bidden [invited], when he marked how they chose out the chief rooms [places];saying unto them, 8When thou art bidden [invited] of [by] any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room [place]; lest a more honourable man than thou be biddenof [invited by] him; 9And he that bade [invited] thee and him come and say to thee, Give this man place; and thou begin with shame to take the lowest room [place].10But when thou art bidden [invited], go and sit down in the lowest room [place]; that when he that bade [invited] thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then shalt thou have worship [honour] in the presence of them that sit at meat [attable] with thee. 11For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humblethhimself shall be exalted. 12Then said he also to him that bade him, When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid [invite] thee again, and a recompense bemade thee. 13But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the14blind: And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot [have not wherewith to] recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
Luke 14:1. And it came to pass.—The narrative of the healing of the dropsical man, peculiar to Luke, belongs without doubt to the journey communicated Luke 13:22, and the here-mentioned meal therefore took place apparently on one of the there-mentioned three days. As in the answer of the Saviour to the Pharisees (Luke 13:31–33) a kind of melancholy joy appears, which can be better felt than described, so was it undoubtedly the same frame of mind which impelled Him even in this critical period of His life to accept a dangerous expression of honor, and sit down at the table of a Pharisee.
One of the chief Pharisees.—According to Grotius and Kuinoel, it was a Sanhedrist belonging to the Pharisees, and according to De Wette a president of the synagogue, one of the heads of the Pharisees. They, however, had as a sect no chiefs in the common sense of the word, and we shall hardly be able to understand anything else here than a Pharisee who, by his rank, learning, or influence, had obtained a moral predominance over those of his sect, like Nicodemus, Gamaliel, Hillel, Shammai, or others.
To eat bread.—The Jews were accustomed on their Sabbath days to make visits and give entertainments, Nehemiah 8:10. It, however, could be done the more easily, without actual desecration of the Sabbath, as they did not need to make a fire for cooking their food, as they had already prepared this the day before; so that the members of their family had to perform no special work on the Sabbath, Exodus 35:3. We are not here to understand, however, a public banquet (Paulus). Our Lord was, on the other hand, as had several times already been the case, invited in with the family, Luke 14:12. It belongs to the peculiarities of Luke, that he loves to represent to us the Saviour as sitting at a social table, where He most beautifully reveals His pure humanity. This time He glorifies the meal through table-talk which, more than that of any other, was “seasoned with salt,” Col. 4:6, and, according to the exceedingly vivid and internally credible account of Luke, was addressed first to the guests (Luke 14:7–10), then to the host (Luke 14:11–14), finally, on occasion being given (Luke 14:15), to both (Luke 14:16–24). A Sabbath miracle takes place immediately previously.
Luke 14:2. Which had the dropsy.—The commencement καὶ ἰδού evidently emphasizes the unexpectedness of the appearance of the man, who had by no means been invited as a guest, since Jesus, after his healing, sends him away. Since now in this place we read nothing of a great throng of the people, such as appears to have been found at other similar meals, in consequence of which this man might have boldly come in, it is highly probable that the Pharisee had placed him there with a malicious intention. This view is not arbitrary (Meyer), for, Luke 14:1, we read that the Pharisees were watching Jesus, and although Luke 14:2 does not begin with γάρ, yet it appears plainly enough that here the very crisis is related which gave occasion to such a lying in wait; a case entirely similar to that in Luke 6:6, 7. Therefore, also, we find the patient just ἔμπροσθεν αὐτ. in a place where he must meet the eye of the Saviour. The same treacherous disposition lay at the bottom of the hospitality of the Pharisees, as previously at the bottom of their friendly warning, Luke 13:31. The sick man, however, probably did not know to what end he had been led there, nay, perhaps they had already, by large promises, awakened in him the spark of faith and hope which the Saviour always made the condition of His miraculous power, of which, however, nothing comes to be mentioned, unless it be that before the healing more had taken place between Jesus and the sick man than the narrative informs us. Perhaps they thought, in view of the helpless condition of the dropsical man, that the healing this time would not succeed, and that their craftiness, therefore, would bring the powerlessness of the Saviour to light. And in the worst case, yet even by a healing on the Sabbath, would they not have again new matter for an accusation? Grounds enough which might occasion them to grant to this unhappy, perhaps also poor, man, for some moments the honor of their presence in the neighborhood of the festive table.
Luke 14:3. And Jesus answering.—These words of the Saviour are an answer to this act of His enemies, and to the secret evil thoughts which He had therewith read in their hearts. He will not perform the miracle without first showing them that He sees through their plan. Therefore He begins of His own accord to speak, while the sick man, out of timidity before so distinguished a company, or, perhaps, in the expectation of a friendly word, stands there in silence.
Is it lawful.—In a certain sense we can say that the Saviour shows them His superiority by this, that He lays for them with so categorical a question a snare. For had they answered unconditionally, Yes, they would thereby have sanctioned His miracle; while their answering No, would, in this particular case, have betrayed their own want of love. On this account they held their peace as before, Luke 6:9. Only after this triumph does the Saviour go on to speak by deeds: He lays hold of the dropsical man with mighty hand (ἐπιλαβόμενος) and lets him go from Him healed. In this, however, it is worthy of note how He still spares the enemies at whose table He sits, inasmuch as He castigates them not in the presence, but only after the departure, of the recovered man.
Luke 14:5. Which of you.—Here also, as before, the act is vindicated with a reference to daily life, yet this time again in a peculiar form, with relation to the nature of the miracle. At the healing of the woman whom Satan had bound eighteen years, Luke 13:16, our Saviour speaks of the loosing of the ox and ass. Here, where a dropsical man has been made sound, He speaks of a well in which the cattle ran the danger of drowning (a minor proof, we may cursorily remark, for the accuracy of the Evangelist in the communication of the sayings of the Saviour). In general, the Sabbath miracles of our Lord, even with inevitable coincidences, present so many fine shades of difference, that the opinion (Strauss) as if all were only mythical variations upon the same monotonous theme, is, by a more exact comparison of them, best shown to be a lie.
An ass or an ox.—The reading υἱός has, it is true, a great number of external testimonies for it (see the enumeration in Lachmann and Tischendorf), and has been acutely defended by Rettig (Stud. und Krit., 1838), but brings a disturbing element into the discussion. There is here, at all events, plainly a conclusion a minori ad majus, which by the combination of Son and Ox in great part falls away. The appeal to the paternal sensibility of the Pharisees would here, where it was the healing of a stranger that was in question, have entirely failed of its end. The various reading mentioned appears, on the other hand, to require an explanation in this way, that an ignorant copyist wished to put a still stronger expression into the Saviour’s mouth than that which He had, according to the common reading, made use of, but for this very reason weakened involuntarily the force of His argument. That the Saviour wished here to express the ethical principle, that what we do in relation to our own on the Sabbath we are also bound to do for others (Meyer), is certainly possible, but, when compared with similar apologetical dicta, is yet by no means probable. Had the Saviour wished to impress the rule, Matt. 7:12, in this manner, the mention of the ox, at all events, would have been superfluous. Moreover, the son in the well appears, at all events, in a somewhat singular case. On all these grounds, we do not venture to apply here the elsewhere so trustworthy rule, lectio difficilior prœferenda. The various reading πρόβατον (D.) also points already to an uncertainty of the reading, in which case it is, perhaps, safest to keep to the Recepta.
Luke 14:7. He put forth a parable to those which were invited.—The word “parable” is here to be taken in the wider sense, not in that of an invented narrative, but in that of a parabolic address. Against the imputation of the indecorum of this table-talk (Gfrörer, De Wette), see the remark on Luke 11:37. Meyer, “Here, moreover, the occurrence with the dropsical man had prepared another point of view than that of urbanity;” and if we assume, moreover (Lange), that the two brief parables also, Luke 14:7–14, bear a symbolic character, by which the relation of the guests to the kingdom of God is intimated, there vanishes the lightest semblance of indecorum. But even apart from this, we are not to forget how much here depended on the tone of the speaker, and we may here well remind the reader of the familiar expression, “Quod licet Jovi, non licet bovi.”
When He marked.—The unseemly demeanor of the guests gives of itself the occasion for the first parable. It is hard to suppose that the Saviour here wished to instruct them what demeanor became them in reference to the feast in the kingdom of God, since He does not regard the unbelieving Jews as those who really sit at the head of the festal board, but, on the contrary (Luke 14:18 seq.), as those who have, indeed, been invited thereto, but have not made their appearance. No, as yet the instruction is framed entirely according to the circumstances of the moment: “Go and sit down in the lowest place.” We might almost suppose that the Saviour Himself, with His disciples, belonged to those who sat below, and with right, but in vain, waited for a higher place, but would, however, in no way appropriate this to themselves. In this case, the noblest sense of dignity and His highest hope for the future also expressed itself in the utterance: “He that humbleth himself shall be exalted,” as, on the other hand, a sharp threatening for the Jews lay in the warning, which He for this particular case utters as a general truth: “He that exalteth himself shall be humbled.” That this saying was one of those which the Saviour on different occasions could very fittingly repeat, strikes the eye at once, comp. Matt. 23:12; Luke 18:14. As to the rest, the whole picture is taken from life, and shows anew with what observant look the Saviour often noticed the most habitual usages of daily life. The feast which is here spoken of is no common δεῖπνον, but a wedding, in which decorum as to the place is yet more important than on other occasions. Where a strife arises about places, it must naturally not be one of the guests but the impartial host who decides, who has invited the one and the other (σὲ καὶ αὐτόν, te et illum, Vulg.). To the one pressing forward with so little modesty he says briefly, “Give this man room;” thus put back, he begins then (ἄρξῃ, the lingering beginning of receding, with a feeling of shame, Meyer) to take not only one of the lower but the lowest place (τὸν ἔσχ. τόπ.). “Qui semel cedere jubetur, longe removetur.” Bengel. The humble one, on the other hand, who has gone blithely and joyfully to the feast (πορευθείς), and contents himself there with the lowest place, receives a friendly φίλε, that urges him to come up, if not in every case to the highest seat of all, at least higher, ἀνώτερον, and the honor which is herewith connected even in and of itself gains yet double worth by the fact that it falls to him ἐνώπιον his fellow-guests, comp. Prov. 25:6, 7.
Luke 14:12. Then said He also.—The second parable is not a eulogy on the host because he had invited the Saviour, although He did not belong to the high in rank, and to his friends (Ebrard), but is, on the other hand, a sharp rebuke on account of a fault which is almost always committed in the choice of guests at splendid banquets. It is, of course, apparent that the precept of the Saviour must not be understood absolutely, but a parte potiori. The Mosaic law had already allotted to the poor and needy a place at the feast-table, Deut. 14:28, 29; 16:11; 26:11–13, and the Saviour also wills that one should henceforth show his kindness not exclusively or primarily to those who can most richly requite the same. The thought that the origin of the Christian Agapæ must be derived from this precept (Van Hengel) is purely arbitrary.
Lest they also invite thee again.—The common understanding with which one gives a feast to a man of consequence, namely, that he shall be invited in turn, the Saviour here represents as something that is far more to be avoided than anxiously to be sought. It is of like character with the ἀπέχειν τὸν μισθόν, Matt. 6:5. “Metus, mundo ignotus.” Bengel. Only where one does something, not out of an everyday craving for advantage, but out of disinterested love, does the Saviour promise the richest reward.
Luke 14:14. At the resurrection of the just.—The last phrase, τῶν δικαίων, would have been entirely purposeless if the Saviour had here had in mind the general resurrection which He describes, e. g., John 5:28, 29. He distinguishes like Paul (1 Thess. 4:16; 1 Cor. 15:23) and John (Rev. 20:5, 6) between a first and a second resurrection, comp. also Luke 20:34–36, and impresses thereby on this oftcontroverted doctrine the stamp of His unerring αὐτὸς ἔφα. At all events, this word contains a germ which is further developed in the later apostolic writings. Comp. BERTHOLDT, Christol. Judœorum, § 38. That which according to Paul and John intervenes between the first and second resurrection, the Saviour here leaves untouched, without, however, in any respect contradicting it. That He does not speak of δικαίων in the Pharisaical, but in the ethical, sense, is, of course, understood. Nor is He here concerned to praise His host, who had invited Him, Luke 14:1, apparently with a perverse intent, but only to lay down the general principle which in social intercourse may never be lost out of mind, and to allude to the joyful prospect at which every one may rejoice who obediently conforms himself to this precept.
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. See Exegetical and Critical remarks, and the remarks on Luke 6:1–11.
2. Here also the Saviour does not reject the offered feast of the Pharisee, and shows thereby the human kindliness of His character. In the miraculous deed which He performs on the occasion, in the humiliating words which He thereby utters, He reveals His Divine greatness. He shows even in social intercourse a free-spokenness, but at the same time a conscientiousness and dignity, according to which His disciple can direct himself in all cases with safety.
3. The warning of the Saviour against seeking after vain honor may be applied also in a wider sense to the seeking after high places and offices of honor in the kingdom of God, when it offends us to see another before us, in which, however, the high-aiming ones draw upon themselves very many a humiliation. So far this admonition coincides with the general principles stated more in detail, Matt. 23:6–8; John 13:1–17, and elsewhere. Comp. 1 Peter 5:5; James 4:6. Here the Saviour represents self-humiliation as an act of holy prudence. Other motives, however powerful, could in this connection not well be touched upon. But certainly he acts most according to the spirit even of this admonition who names himself, with Paul, the chief of sinners, 1 Tim. 1:15.
4. The eternal rule in God’s government according to which the humble is raised and the lofty is humbled, was not unknown even to God-fearing heathen. Comp. the admirable answer of Æsop to the question, What God does? “elata deprimere, humilia extollere.” Yet we may affirm with certainty that humility such as the Saviour here and in other places required, remained unknown to the heathen, and must be called a peculiar Christian virtue.
5. Not ungrounded is the complaint (Newton) that the Saviour’s precept in respect to those whom one must principally invite to a feast is only all too often forgotten by His disciples. On the other hand, however, it must not be overlooked that admonitions of this kind are not possible to be interpreted κατὰ ῥητόν, but rather like Matt. 5:39–42, and similar passages. Upon the disinterested temper which is here emphatically commanded, all at last depends in the case of His disciples. As to the rest, even heathen antiquity was not wholly without similar precepts. Call to mind Martial’s poscis munera, Sexte, non amicos, and especially the remarkable words of Plato in the Phœdrus, Edit. Bipont. X. 293, a proof the more that in this saying of the Lord a purely human feeling, but not a breach against decorum, expresses itself. To the Saviour alone did it belong to bring the here-commended principle into direct connection with the future and everlasting happiness of His people.
6. What the Saviour here commends to others He has Himself fulfilled in the most illustrious manner. To the feast in the kingdom of God He has principally invited not such as were related to Him after the flesh, and from whom He might hope for recompense again, but the poor, blind, etc., in the spiritual sense of the word. But for that reason, also, He has now joy to the full in the kingdom of the Father, and a name that is above every name.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
Even in the thickening conflict of His life, the Saviour is not unreceptive of social enjoyment.—The Sunday meals, Sunday dangers, Sunday duties of the Christian.—Even where we should not expect it, hostile looks are often directed against us.—Human misery in the midst of the house of joy.—The house of mourning and the house of feasting (Eccles. 7:3) here united under one roof; in both the Lord is perfectly in His place.—Jesus understands even the unuttered sighs.—Where Jesus stretches forth His hand there follows healing.—Humanity even towards beasts is also promoted by the Saviour.—Humanity towards beasts not seldom united with inhumanity towards men. [Eminently exemplified among the Hindoos.—C. C. S.]—Powerless silence over against the great deeds of the Lord: 1. From rancor; 2. from perplexity; 3. from inflexible disdain.—The seeking after vain honor: 1. In daily life; 2. in Christian life.—The shame prepared for unrestrained craving after honor, even on this side of the grave.—“Take the lowest place” (Address at the Communion): 1. Even there dost thou as guest most fittingly belong; 2. there does the Host love best to see thee; 3. there does the feast most refresh thee; 4. there dost thou most quickly attain to the place of honor.—“Whosoever exalteth himself,” etc.: 1. The result of the world’s history; 2. the fundamental law of the kingdom of God; 3. the chosen motto of every Christian.—Selfish profit the ground of most of the exhibitions of love of the natural man.—The giving of feasts is by no means forbidden to Christians, but not every feast is alike good in the eyes of the Lord.—Recompense from man and reward from God go seldom hand in hand.—The blessedness of Him who receives no earthly recompense for his love.—True love does not only help the needy, but it quickens and gladdens him also.—He that giveth to the poor lendeth to the Lord.—The resurrection of the just a time of the noblest recompense.
STARKE:—BRENTIUS:—Although learned mahco is the worst of all, yet one has not to be too greatly in fear of it.—CANSTEIN:—People of repute and preachers should consider, wherever they are, that notice is taken of them, 2 Cor. 6:3.—Our entertainments should be only feasts of love, but falsehood is the first dish that is served up.—Although we find ourselves among evil people, yet we shall not lack opportunity to do good.—CRAMER:—Silence is sometimes good, but malicious silence, when one should speak, is sin.—CANSTEIN:—Them that need help we should willingly assist, and not allow ourselves to be begged out and moved with long entreaties, but rather anticipate them out of compassion.—According to circumstances, it is fitting and profitable to give account to people of one’s doing.—Nova Bibl. Tüb.:—Falsehood is put to shame by sincerity, craftiness by wisdom, malice by the light of truth, and must be dumb.—It is good at a meal, even where a number are present, to hold edifying discourse, 1 Tim. 4:5.—ZEISIUS:—Among the proud there is ever strife, Prov. 13:10.—OSIANDER:—Dear Christian, thou must concern thyself not only for godliness, but also for courteousness and good manners, Phil. 4:8.—Nova Bibl. Tüb.:—In lowliness of mind, let each esteem other better than himself, Phil. 2:3.—BRENTIUS:—Between seeking power, and accepting beseeming honor in humility, there is a great distinction, which one has occasion to take good note of, 1 Thess. 2:5, 6.—Biblical hospitality belongs especially to the poor and distressed.—HEDINGER:—Love is not covetous; God’s children share as long as they have.—To entertain the poor and needy is the same as to receive Christ, and has the promise of this life and that which is to come, Isaiah 58:7.—QUESNEL:—Happy indeed does he esteem himself who in case of need advances something to a royal prince who is expecting the crown; (pious) poor people are nothing but needy princes; the kingdom of heaven is theirs; we without doubt make our fortune if we lend to them in need.
HEUBNER:—The dangers in high society.—Jesus brings the man into his heart; he is himself to feel the right and declare it to himself.—Against its will the evil heart must secretly acknowledge the truth.—The discourse of Christ is earnest, convincing, but never satirical against His enemies.—To save a man from danger of life every one accounts a duty, why then not also to save his soul?—Demeanor of Christians in reference to rank.—The power of dispensing with worldly honor makes worthy of honor.—Examples of exact fulfilment of the precept, Luke 14:12–14, vol ii. pp. 108–110.
On the Pericope:—Jesus as Guest in the Pharisee’s house.—The dangers of Sunday.—The right employment of Sunday.—LISCO:—Occasion for thought in the history of the miracle; Thou shalt sanctify the solemn day.—ULBER:—The bounds of Christian freedom: 1. In reference to Divine service, Luke 14:1–6; 2. to intercourse with one’s neighbor, Luke 14:7–11; 3. to temporal recreation, Luke 14:12–14.—FUCHS:—Divine service on Sunday: 1. The Divine service of the temple; 2. Divine service of the house; 3. Divine service of the heart.—Self-exaltation and self-humiliation: 1. Their nature; 2. their expression; 3. their consequences.—AHLFELD:—How celebrates the living Christian Church her Sunday? 1. She has the Lord in the midst of her; 2. exercises love; 3. is humble before the Lord her God.—WESTERMEYER.—Jesus at the table of a Pharisee; how He reveals Himself: 1. In His great-hearted love; 2. in His unsurpassable wisdom; 3. in His humble seriousness.
Luke 14:3.—According to the reading θεραπεῦσαι ἢ οὔ, accepted by Tischendorf on considerations not without weight and in some measure already supported by Lachmann. The Rec. is taken from Matt. 12:10.
Luke 14:5.—The fuller reading, ἀποκριθ. πρὸς αὐτ. εἶπεν, is critically suspicious. See Lachmann and Meyer. [B. omits, Cod. Sin. inserts.]
Luke 14:5.—The widely-diffused reading υἱός appears to us, often as it has been vindicated, on internal grounds to be rejected. See below in the Exegetical and Critical remarks. [Υἱός supported by A., B., 10 other uncials; ὄνος by Cod. Sin., 3 other uncials. Υἱός accepted by Lachmann, Tischendorf, Meyer, Bleek, Alfred, Tregelles. It appears to me that to read it climactically “his son, or even his ox,” is the only way in which this reading becomes tolerable, notwithstanding its weight of external authority.—C. C. S.]
Luke 14:6.—The αὐτῷ of the Recepta is untenable.
Then said he unto him, A certain man made a great supper, and bade many:2. The Parable of the Great Supper (Luke 14:15–24)
(Luke 14:16–24, Gospel for the 2d Sunday after Trinity)
15And when one of them that sat [reclined] at meat [at table] with him heard these things, he said unto him, Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God.16Then said he unto him, A certain man made a great supper, and bade [invited] many:17And sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden [invited], Come;for all things are now ready. 18And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and seeit: I pray thee have me excused. 19And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen,and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused. 20And another said, I havemarried a wife, and therefore I cannot come. 21So that servant came, and shewed his lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and themaimed, and the halt, and the blind. 22And the servant said, Lord [or, Sir], it is doneas thou hast commanded, and yet there is room. 23And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house maybe filled. 24For I say unto you, That none of those men which were bidden [invited] shall taste of my supper.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
Luke 14:15. One of them that reclined at table with Him.—Since, besides Jesus and His apostles, no poor had been invited, this was without doubt one of the rich friends of the Pharisaic host, whose remark gave the Saviour occasion for delivering the Parable of the Great Supper. “The peculiar exclamation, and the exact connection of the following Parable with it, and with all that precedes, speak for the originality of the whole representation in the most decided manner.” (Olshausen.) That the form of the exclamation in and of itself “does not allow an inference of Pharisaical and carnal confidence in reference to future participation in the kingdom of God” (Lange), must unquestionably be conceded. The exclamation is intelligible enough. Ἀρτον φάγ. is, 2 Sam. 9:7–10, used of entertaining at a royal table. The various reading ἄριστον for ἄρτον is certainly spurious, see DE WETTE, ad loc., and φάγεται is to be taken as Future. But the question is still difficult respecting the disposition in which, and the purpose for which, this remark was uttered on this occasion. If we had met this man in another circle, and if the Saviour had answered him in another way, we could then suppose that here the holy temper of Jesus had communicated itself to this guest, and, with Bengel, explain, “Audiens eoque tactus.” But in the way in which the remark appears in this connection, the exclamation seems to sound more pious than it really was, and not even to have an equal value with the enthusiasm of the Macarizing woman, Luke 11:27. We find therein a somewhat unlucky attempt, by an edifying turn, to make an end to a discourse which contained nothing flattering for the host, and might perhaps soon pass over to yet sharper rebuke of the guests. With worldly courteousness he seeks, therefore, to go to the help of the Pharisee who had invited him, and to draw off the threatening storm. The parable, however, shows that the Saviour did not by any means let Himself be brought off His course by an interjectional utterance; since He, in other words, answers him to this effect: “What advantage can it be that thou, with all thy seeming enthusiasm, praisest the happiness of them that sit at table in the kingdom of God, if thou, and those like thee, although you are invited, yet actually refuse to come!”
Luke 14:16. A certain man.—Upon the distinction in connection of this parable with that of the Royal Wedding, see LANGE on Matt. 22:2–14. On the comparison it appears that the latter, which is portrayed in much stronger colors, belongs to a later period of the public life of the Saviour, when the opposition between Him and His enemies had declared itself yet much more strongly.
A great supper.—The occasion for the representation of the kingdom of Heaven under this image, was given the Saviour spontaneously by the remark of His fellow-guest, and by the feast of the Pharisee. In other places also, e. g., Matt. 8:11, 12, He makes use of the same imagery. Great this δεῖπνον may be named, as well on account of the abundance of the refreshing viands, as on account of its being intended to be celebrated by many. The first invitation here designated was that through the prophets of the Old Testament generally; while by the πολλοί we can understand no others than the Jewish nation in general. Although the Saviour does not expressly add this, yet it results from the nature of the case that we have to understand this first preliminary invitation as unconditionally accepted by those invited.
Luke 14:17. And sent his servant.—Δοῦλος stands here by no means collectively for all the servants (Heubner), but has reference very definitely to one servant, the vocator (Grotius), who, according to Oriental usage, repeats the invitation so soon as the feast is prepared, not in order to inquire again whether the guests will come, but in order to make known to them when they should appear. The here-indicated time coincides with the fulness of time, Gal. 4:4, while the servant can be no other than the Messiah, the עָבֶד יְהוָֹה of Isaiah. He makes known to Israel that the blessings of the kingdom of Heaven, from this instant on, are attainable for them, and that in such wise, that they have nothing else to do than to come, to take, and to eat.
Luke 14:18. Ἀπὸ μιᾶς, some supply γνώμης, others, ὥρας, φωνῆς, ψυχῆς, αἰτίας. The first, doubtless, deserves the preference, although in any case what is meant is self-evident. The motives which they adduce are indeed different; but in this they all agree, that they take back again the word that they have given.—Make excuse.—Beg off, deprecari. Those invited acknowledge themselves the necessity of an excuse in some manner plausible, and thereby indirectly establish the fact that they were under obligation to appear.
Bought a piece of ground.—Whoever finds it unreasonable that the yet unviewed field was already bought, need not hesitate to conceive the matter thus: that the purchase was not yet unconditionally concluded, and that at this very moment it depended on the viewing whether he should become definitive possessor of it.—Must needs.—In courteous-wise the invited guest will give the servant to understand that to his great sorrow it is entirely impossible for him to do otherwise. He begs that he may be held excused, that is, “That he may stand to him in the relation of a person released from his promise.”
Luke 14:19. Five yoke of oxen.—To this invited guest, as to the first, earthly possession stands in the way of becoming a participant of the saving benefits of the kingdom of Heaven. We regard it as somewhat forced to view in this invited guest the love of dominion as intimated, typified in the swinging of the whip over his team of oxen. No, the first and second are so far in line with one another as this, that with both, earthly possession, as with the third sensual pleasure, becomes the stone of stumbling. But if there yet exists a distinction between the first and second, it is probably this, that the man with the field is yet seeking to acquire the earthly good, while the man with the oxen is thinking of still increasing that which is already gained. The first is the man of business,5 whose only concern is to bring what he has just bought into good order; the other is the independent man, who will see himself hindered by nobody; who says to one, “Go, and he goeth,” and to the other, “Come, and he cometh,” into whom something of the refractory nature of his oxen has passed over, and who has no mind to be incommoded by anybody. His tone is less urbane than that of the first; he does not beg permission to go, is not merely minded to do this, but is already at that moment actually going. ΙΙορεύομαι—“I am going even now.” So says he, already on the point to start, and has only just time to add: “I beg thee,” while he already desires to be with his oxen.
Luke 14:20. I have married a wife.—The third excuse appears to be the most legitimate, on which account, therefore, it is delivered in the tone of self-confidence which does not even account an excuse as necessary. According to the Mosaic Law, Deut. 24:5, the newly-married man was free for a year from military service, and it therefore appeared that it could not be demanded from this man that he should leave his young wife. If, however, one would believe on this ground that his excuse was valid, then holds good the cutting remark, than which nothing can be better: “Very often do exegetical pedants weary themselves to make reasonable that which in the Gospels is designated as foolish.” (Lange.) At all events the invitation to the feast had been already accepted before the celebration of the marriage, and so the marriage set him free, it is true, from the burden of military service, but not from the enjoyment of social intercourse. In case of need he might have brought his young wife also with him; and if she did not wish this, then here, also, the saying, Matt. 10:37, held good. Very rightly says Stier: “Of hindering by the state of marriage generally (I have married!) there is no mention, but of the first heated wedding delight, as the type of all carnal pleasure.” No wonder that the vocator accuses to his Lord this self-excuser no less than the two others.
Luke 14:21. Into the streets and lanes.—The second class of the invited must still be sought out within the city. From this appears, that we have here to understand Jews, not proselytes from among the heathen (Lisco). The Saviour has the publicans and sinners in His mind, comp. Luke 7:29; Matt. 21:32, the poorest part of the nation, the same whom the Pharisee, Luke 14:12–14, should have invited to his festal board. From this it becomes at the same time evident that by the first invited, Luke 14:17, who begin to excuse themselves ἀπὸ μιᾶς, not the people of Israel, but the representatives of the Theocracy, the Pharisees and scribes, the Ἰουδαῖοι of John were spoken of, to whom, by Divine order, and of right, the invitation had been officially given, and who for their very office’ sake were under obligation to take due notice thereof. From these who were now invited in their place, no excuses, as from the first, were to be feared; the blind had no field to view, the lame could not go along behind his oxen, the maimed had no wife who would have hindered him from coming; only the feeling of poverty could have held them back; but this feeling also vanishes, since they must be in a friendly way led in by the servant.
Luke 14:22. Sir, it is done.—We must agree with Meyer when he draws attention to the fact that the servant had by no means, according to the ordinary explanations, again gone subsequently to the second command, and now had again returned. “No, the servant, rejected by the former invited guests, has, of himself, done what the lord here bids him, so that he can at once reply to this command: ‘It is done,’ &c. Strikingly does this also apply to Jesus, who, before His return to the Father, has already fulfilled this counsel of God known to Him.” According to this explanation the parable is then also the faithful reflection of the reality, and says in other words the same which Luke 7:29, 30 expresses. Very delicate is the trait that not the lord the servant, but on the other hand the servant brings the lord to take note of the room yet remaining. So great was the feast that, although many had excused themselves, and not a few had been brought in, there was still abundant room for others. Even so in striking manner a strong impulse of delivering love for the salvation of publicans and sinners is brought to manifestation in the “Go out quickly,” which ταχέως is omitted with the following command, Luke 14:23, because the labor of grace among the χωλοί, &c., of Israel was limited to a very brief time; while on the other hand the vocation of the Gentiles was to extend itself over many centuries.
Luke 14:23. Into the highways and hedges.—Here indeed the longers for salvation and the wretched among the heathen, are indicated; Matt. 22:9; Eph. 2:12. “Sœpes mendicorum parietes.” Bengel.
Compel them to come in.—The use is well known which has been made of this expression, to justify the compulsion of heretics. There is scarcely however any need of remark that none other than the moral compulsion of love is justified. So did Jesus also compel His disciples to go into the ship, Matt. 14:22; Mark 6:45, certainly not with physical force; Peter also compelled the Gentiles, Gal. 2:14, to ἰουδαί̈ζειν, exclusively by the power of his example. Not the way and method in which Saul was zealous for Judaism, but that in which Paul was zealous for Christianity, must be the type for the servant of God who will accomplish the “compelle intrare” in His spirit. The house must be filled, with such as are not dragged or carried in, but such as are by the power of love moved voluntarily to enter in.
Luke 14:24. For I say unto you.—It is a question whether we have hereto understand the words of the lord of the servant (Bengel, Grotius, Olshausen, De Wette, Meyer), or whether we have before us the words of the Lord Jesus Himself (Kuinoel, Paulus, Stier, &c). For the first view this speaks, that Jesus in the parable is not represented as Lord, but as servant, Luke 14:17, and that the δεῖπνόν μου in His mouth sounds somewhat hard; but in favor of the other there are, the solemn tone of the assurance and the ὑμῖν, since in the parable itself there is not found the slightest intimation of the presence of several servants, to whom this word could be addressed. We, for our part, choose the latter; and, far from regarding the form of the parable as having in the slightest degree lost anything by this transition from the image to that which it denotes, since the parable undoubtedly can without difficulty be regarded as concluded in Luke 14:23, this change of the speaker is to us a beauty the more. Suddenly, we might almost say involuntarily, the Saviour betrays His design, and expresses without concealment His self-consciousness, as it lay at the bottom of the parable. In view of the calling of the Gentiles, there opens before His spirit the noblest prospect; so much the more painfully, on the other hand, does Israel’s reprobacy touch Him, so that He suddenly lets fall the veil which hitherto concealed the truth in the words of the parable. “Unfaithful ones,” will He say, “My supper it is whereto ye are invited; I, who invited you, was at the same time He in honor of whom it has been given; but ye will through your own folly receive no place thereat!” It is as though the truth had become to the Saviour too mighty for Him to conceal it longer in figurative speech. Thus at the same time is the whole discourse at the table concluded in worthy-wise, with a self-testimony of Jesus; and in view of the slight echo which this must have found in a circle like this, it may not surprise us if we meet Him immediately after again on His journey.
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. The comparison of the Kingdom of God with a δεῖπνον is very especially fitted to set forth the peculiar nature of this kingdom, on its most attractive side. It is a kingdom of the most perfect satisfaction, of the most blessed joy, of the most noble society. So much more unpardonable and senseless, therefore, the behavior of the first invited.
2. In a striking way there is depicted to us, in the image of the householder, the reciprocal relation which exists between the Divine wrath and the Divine love. The freer, more unrestricted and more urgent the invitation was, to so much the more vehement anger is the love from which it sprung moved; but this anger leads again to new and yet more intensified revelation of love, which at any price will see its glorious goal attained. “He has therefore so made provision that He must have people that eat, drink, and are merry, though He should make them out of stones.” Luther.
3. The representation of the Saviour as a servant who invites to the feast of the kingdom of Heaven, is at the same time, considered in the light of the Old Testament, one of the most beautiful testimonies of Jesus to Himself, comp. Prov. 9:1–5; Isaiah 55:1, 2.
4. The vocation to the Kingdom of God appears here as one meant in earnest; the anger of the householder would otherwise be incomprehensible: as an urgent one; no means must be left untried that the house may be filled: but for that reason, at the same time, as one, the inexcusable rejection of which prepares for the stubborn refusers unutterable misery. It remains a decretum irrevocabile, that such shall not taste of the Supper.
5. This parable contains an important instruction for all messengers of the Gospel. They have, with all the urgency of love, to invite, without excluding a single one who does not exclude himself. They have to prepare themselves for manifold opposition; but also in all to direct themselves after the commandment of their Lord. If they are repelled, they can with confidence complain of it to Him, and never are they to give themselves over to the thought that there is for any one no more room; and if they are only conscious that in the urgency of their love they avail themselves of no impure means, they have little occasion to fear going too far in this, comp. Luke 24:29; Acts 16:5; 2 Tim. 4:2.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
To declare blessed and to be blessed are two very different things.—One can scarcely utter a great truth, without himself being of the truth.—Happy is he that eats bread in the Kingdom of God; he finds, 1. Full satisfaction; 2. joy; 3. society.—The great feast in the kingdom of Heaven: 1. Hospitably prepared; 2. urgently offered; 3. unthankfully rejected; 4. now as ever standing open.—Many are called but few are chosen.—The course of the history of the Kingdom of God, 1. Before; 2. during; 3. after, the appearance of Jesus.—Many that are first shall be last, and many that are last shall be first.—The vocation to the Kingdom of Heaven: 1. A comprehensive; 2. an actual; 3. an urgent; 4. a strongly-binding, vocation.—The sweet message of the New Covenant: 1. Already all things are prepared; 2. already all things are prepared; 3. all things are now prepared; 4. already all things are prepared for him that will only come.—The art of excusing one’s self: 1. An old art, Gen. 3:7–13; 2. a universal art; 3. a good-for-nothing art.—The excuses: 1. Their outward differences; 2. their inward agreement.—The excuses: 1. Abundant in number; 2. nothing in value; 3. pernicious in results.—The more or less courteous form, in which we withdraw ourselves from the fulfilment of our vocation, changes nothing whatever in the essence of the matter.—“I cannot,” an euphemism for, “To tell the truth, I will not.”—The anger of love, love in anger, comp. Rev. 6:16.—Yet there is room! This saying: 1. A judgment upon those who should have come but would not come; 2. an attractive voice for those who indeed long, but do not venture, to come; 3. a rousing voice for the servants never to give up their invitation, but rather to extend it as widely as possible.—Yet there is room: 1. In the visible church; 2. in the invisible fellowship of the saints in the many mansions of the Father, John 14:2.—The prerogative of the servant who can ever say: “Lord, it is done as Thou hast commanded.”—The vengeance of the householder who sees his first invitation rejected: 1. The guests whom he calls; 2. the entertainment which he offers; 3. the number which he will see brought together.—The mournful consequences of not accepting the joyful message: 1. One robs himself of the most glorious privilege; 2. draws on himself the anger of the Lord; 3. sees others go in his place.—The command of the householder, the ground of all domestic and foreign missions.—Whoever has once stubbornly shut himself out, remains shut out.—Compelle intrare; use and abuse of this word, degree and limit of the constraint of love.
STARKE:—HEDINGER:—Wishing and commanding accomplish nothing in religion; doing and fulfilling is the will of God, Matt. 7:21.—CANSTEIN:—The vocation of God is so general, that as well the reprobate as the elect are included therein.—God’s Supper has its fixed hour; at that hour must those invited come.—QUESNEL:—Too much leisure and too much business are both dangerous to the attainment of salvation.—The holy bond of marriage, which should be a help to salvation, is often a hindrance to the same.—Servants of God and Jesus always go on in their office with God for a counsellor.—What is despised, foolish, and vulgar before men, on that God confers the greatest honor.—Nova Bibl. Tub.:—From the apostasy of the Jews, life has come to the Gentiles, Rom. 11.—CANSTEIN:—God will finally in His turn despise those that have despised Him.
HEUBNER:—The immeasurable love of God, and the scornful ingratitude of the world.—The loss of the time of grace brings everlasting loss.—Man has no one to accuse but himself, if he is not saved.—The Divine call to salvation.—The truth: God earnestly wills our salvation.—LISCO:—Love of the world a hindrance to salvation for many that are called to the kingdom of God.—ARNDT:—Earthlymindedness: 1. As to its nature; 2. as to its relation to the kingdom of God; 3. as to its blindness; 4. as to its punishment.—ZIMMERMANN:—Christianity, the religion of the poor, for: 1. It makes the poor rich; 2. the spiritually sick well; 3. the spiritually blind to see.—DRÆSEKE:—Yet there is room. This is a summons, a. to the poor that they take comfort; b. to the faithful that they gather themselves together; c. to the sinners, that they be converted; d. to the good, that they distinguish themselves (!!!); e. to the despised, that they rise up; f. for the late born, that they believe themselves not neglected.—AHLFELD:—The Great Supper of the Lord: 1. Wherein it consists; 2. how the Lord invites thereto; 3. the excuses; 4. the bitter fruit of the excuses.—BURK:—The straightforward behavior of a faithful and honest servant of God, who invites to the kingdom of heaven.—FUCHS:—Come, for all things are ready! 1. The entertainment; 2. the entertainer; 3. the entertained.—PETRI:—What should move us to come when God calls: 1. The greatness of His grace; 2. the earnestness of His invitation.—UHLE:—The cheerful and the stern side of Christianity.—KRUMMACHER:—Why not to Christ? (Sabb. Glocke, V. 2.)
This Pericope is exceedingly well adapted also for preparation for the celebration of the Holy Communion, in particular,—also for ordination and installation sermons of Ministers of the Gospel.—Finally also for missionary occasions.
[Dr. Van Oosterzee has added this English phrase to the German original; and as our language affords the best term for this character, it would seem that our race is most exposed to the temptation here described.—C. C. S.]
And there went great multitudes with him: and he turned, and said unto them,H. The Son of Man opening His Mouth in Parables.
1. The Address to the People (LUKE 14:25–35)
25And there went great multitudes with him: and he turned, and said unto them, 26If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, 27and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. Andwhosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. 28For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost,29whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply [perhaps], after he hath laid the30foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying,This man began to build, and was not able to finish. 31Or what king, going to make war against [marching to a hostile encounter with] another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh againsthim with twenty thousand? 32Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendethan ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace. 33So likewise, whosoever he be of you34that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple. Salt [therefore6] is good: but if [even7] the salt have lost his savour [become insipid], wherewith shall itbe seasoned? 35It is neither fit for the land, nor yet for the dunghill; but men [they] cast it out. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
Luke 14:25. And there went great multitudes with Him.—This whole Pericope is also peculiar to Luke, and although expressions like Luke 14:26, 34, appear elsewhere, yet nothing hinders us from believing that the Saviour repeated, from time to time, pregnant sayings of this kind, not to mention that the form of these varies in different passages. The parables of the Building of the Tower and of the Warring King appear to have been delivered at the same time, and are very well suited for the greater number of those who came after the Lord on this occasion. In order to see the suitableness of this method of teaching, it is above all things necessary that we realize to ourselves the point of time in which we here meet the Saviour. He is about to depart from Galilee, see Luke 13:32, 33, but at this very time He sees Himself surrounded by a continually increasing multitude. Are they impelled by a presentiment that they shall not see the Master again in this region, or by Messianic chiliastic expectations, or by the desire, over against the augmenting hatred of His enemies, to give to the Saviour an unequivocal proof of continued adherence? However this may be, the Searcher of hearts allows Himself as little as before to be deceived by an illusive semblance. He has compassion on the people, since He knows how hard it will soon become for well-meaning but superficial friendship to manifest for Him steadfast faithfulness. From love, therefore, He is stern enough to portray to them in the darkest colors the conditions of being His disciples, that they may be held back from foolish fancy, and led to self-examination. Earlier requirements which He had addressed exclusively to the Twelve, He now extends in yet severer form to all without distinction. Whoever, after such seemingly terrifying, but, in fact, attractive, words, did not yet recede, but persevered in the resolution to follow Him in this way of decision, he was to the best of Masters doubly, yea tenfold, welcome.
Luke 14:26. If any man come to Me.—The coming to (πρός) Jesus is not the same as the coming after (ὀπίσω) Him, Matt. 16:24. The latter presupposes that one is already His disciple, the other that one desires to become such. At the very first, it speaks for the Saviour’s deep knowledge of man, that the people who, in the literal sense of the word, are coming along behind Him, so that He must turn Himself around in order to address them, are treated by Him as people who have as yet by no means made the first decisive step to Him, but, in the most favorable case, are in the way now for the first time to take this step.
And hate not.—Comp. Matt. 10:37. “The nearer He is to His end, the more decided and idea do His requirements show themselves to the people that are inconstantly and undecidedly accompanying Him.” The lax interpretation of μισεῖν = minus amare (Kuinoel, De Wette, and many others), dilutes unnecessarily the powerful sense of this declaration, and finds in Matt. 6:24 no support; rather must we compare what is written, in Deut. 33:9, of Levi. Not in and of itself is hatred anything antichristian, but only when it is in conflict with the commandment of supreme love, as the Lord, Matt. 20:37–40; John 13:34, 35, has given it. Even to the God of love hatred is ascribed, Rom. 9:13; our Lord, who loves what is human in Peter, hates and rebukes what is Satanic in Simon Bar-Jonah, Matt. 16:21–23, and we may even assert that he who is not capable of hating has never known love in its full power. This is the deep sense of the famous sentiment of tragedy: Va, je t’aimais trop, pour ne pas te haïr [Go, I loved thee too much not to hate thee now]. That the Saviour here means no hatred towards one’s nearest relatives in itself, needs no explanation, comp. Ephes. 5:29. He has only that in them in mind which intervenes irreconcilably between the heart and His kingdom, and defines plainly enough His meaning still more specifically by the concluding clause, ἔτι δὲ καὶ τὴν ἑαυτοῦ ψυχήν. All, therefore, which stands in relation with the sphere of the ψυχή, instead of that of the πνεῦμα, must be hated and given up. Leave must be taken thereof when it comes into conscious conflict with the requirements of the kingdom of heaven. Certain as it is that one may hold his kindred dear in Christ, and that faith does not dissolve family ties, but knits them closer, and sanctifies them, it is at the same time indubitable that not only at the time of our Saviour, but even now, circumstances may occur in which the union of the duties of faith and of merely natural love is impossible, in which, on the contrary, a conflict is absolutely inevitable. Comp. Matt. 10:34–36.
Luke 14:27. And whosoever doth not bear his cross.—See remarks on Luke 9:23, and the parallel passages in Matthew and Mark. We scarcely need remind the reader that here it is by no means all suffering on earth, but exclusively suffering for Christ’s sake, that is spoken of.
Luke 14:28. Intending to build a tower, πύργον.—We are not so particularly to understand a tower in the strict sense of the word, but rather a lofty palace, a sumptuous building, in short, a material erection which requires a more than ordinary development of resources. Here we have the image of seeking after the kingdom of God and of entrance into its discipleship, to which one cannot come without the most strenuous exertion and the most earnest consideration. In a graphic way the Lord sketches the project of the tower-builder. This one has, namely, in the first place, a great plan, which is steadily present to his mind (θέλων). He considers next, not only slightly, but at the fullest leisure, what is required for the carrying out of this plan (καθίσας ψηφίζει. Bengel. “Sedens dato sibi spatio ad faciendam summam rerum suarum”). Thirdly, he does not pass to the carrying out of the plan before he has on the ground of this calculation well persuaded himself that he has really τὰ πρὸς ἀπαρτισμόν, that is, that which is necessary for completing it without and within. Thus does he escape scoffing, which does not befall him if he does not begin at all, but certainly will if he begins without consideration.
Luke 14:29. Lest perhaps.—As in the following parable it is especially the danger and ruinousness, so in this it is the folly and ridiculousness, of an inconsiderate project which is brought to view. We can scarcely avoid the thought that the recollection of the building of the Babylonian Tower, Gen. 11:1–9, floated before the Saviour’s mind. While the decidedly Christian life constrains the world to involuntary respect, half Christianity provokes it to not unnatural scoffing. Not a little is the force of the representation heightened by this, that the Saviour represents the scoffers themselves as saying δεικτικῶς to one another, οὗτος ὁ ἄνθρωπος, κ.τ.λ. In the third person the mockery is yet more delicate than if it were addressed, in the second person, directly to the imprudent tower-builder, comp. Matt. 27:40–42.
Luke 14:31. Or what king.—Plainly the Saviour is concerned to impress on the hearts of His hearers the same thing again, although the representation this time is a somewhat different one. The words themselves are not hard to understand. Συμβαλεῖν belongs together with εἰς πόλεμον; the numbers ten thousand and twenty thousand are designedly chosen to denote a comparatively important, and yet entirely unequal, military power, and the τὰ πρὸςεἰρήνην = to the previous τὰ εἰς ἀπαρτισμόν, designates, not peace itself, but that which he must entreat from the too powerful enemy, in order to come into the enjoyment of a lasting peace. [It appears to me that the author has not brought out the point of the particular disproportion. Many a battle has been gained by a force only half as large as that of the enemy. Yet, unquestionably, the probabilities are very greatly against this. The numbers, therefore, appear to be chosen to indicate a disproportion so great as to make success improbable, but not so great as to make it impossible.—C. C. S.] As respects the subject itself, we may, perhaps, distinguish thus, that the building of the tower is the image of the internal, the war, that of the external, development of the Christian life. So far, Bengel is right in saying that the first image is taken designedly from a res privata, the other from a res publica. Entirely arbitrary is it, on the other hand, to see in the ten thousand soldiers an allusion to the Ten Commandments, and yet more forced to see in the king with twenty thousand a designation of God the Lord Himself (Stier, Lisco). How it can be said of God, in this connection, that He marches against any one to battle, while yet the ten thousand of His adversaries are to be the type of spiritual forces bestowed by Himself, we do not comprehend. The symmetry of the discourse requires imperatively that we should coördinate the thoughts; not to follow Jesus inconsiderately, not to begin the building of the tower without reckoning of the cost, and to beg for peace (that is, not to give up, but to postpone the strife). Comp. LANGE, L. J. ii. p. 1041.
Luke 14:33. So likewise, whosoever he be.—According to De Wette, this application is not exact. It is, however, at once obvious that the consideration commanded by the Saviour, Luke 14:28–31, must necessarily lead to self-renunciation, and that the building of the tower remains unfinished, the strife undecided, precisely when one is disinclined in his heart to such a renunciation. Precisely because self-denial is required is earnest consideration absolutely unavoidable. (See the γάρ, Luke 14:28.)
Luke 14:34. Salt, therefore, is good.—“Nil sale et sole utilius.” PLIN. H. Nat. xxxi. 9. According to the οὖν (see the notes on the text) this sentence does not stand here independently, but is in some measure the application of the previous remarks, comp. Matt. 5:13; Mark 9:50. “Adagium hoc sœpiuscule Christus usurpavit, ut et alia ejus sœculi.” Grotius. The saying would here be hardly congruous (De Wette) only in case it were addressed to the people in just the same sense now as formerly it was to the Apostles. This is, however, by no means necessary to be assumed; nothing hinders us from supposing that the sense of the declaration is modified by a look at the hearers. As the disciples were a purifying salt with reference to the unbelieving world, so was Israel (here represented in the people following) called to be such a salt for the heathen nations. The Saviour, by the pregnant concluding remark, will lead the throng following Him to deeper reflection as to whether, and how far, they have satisfied this high vocation, and show them that they, persevering in unbelieving and unfaithfulness, run the danger of being condemned as saltless salt, of being cast out upon the highways of the heathen world, and trodden down by unclean feet. On this interpretation the figurative mode of speech is applicable even to a mixed throng, and expresses thus the thought which, as is visible from the parable of the Great Supper, nay, from more than one expression in the foregoing chapter, hovered continually, just in these days, before the Saviour’s soul—the thought, namely, that Israel, in consequence of rejecting the Messiah, should itself be rejected. Such a warning was, more than any other, worth being crowned with the concluding admonition: “Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.” Compare, moreover, the remarks on the parallel passages.
Luke 14:35. Not fit for the land, nor yet for the dunghill.—By this addition the figurative expression of the salt in this connection acquires peculiar force. It belongs to the nature of salt that it can only be used for the purpose peculiar to it, and is good for nothing else. It is as little used for manure, as it is necessary to sow upon salt, Ps. 107:34. The people of God, as well as each individual who fails of his original high destination, has, therefore, become not merely in a manner less usable, but wholly unusable. The end of the whole address, such a reminder must make the hearers sensible that it helps nothing, even if one originally might have had some ground to expect something of them, so far as they did not advance to victory in the strife begun, and to the completion of the tower already commenced. Whoever is like the inconsiderate builder, and resembles the presumptuous warrior, he deserves no better name than “Salt that has lost its savor.” Neither directly nor indirectly is he good for anything, who has failed of his high destination.
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. The whole Pericope presents before our eyes the lofty earnestness and the severe requirements of the Christian life. The word here spoken has the purpose of deterring the inconsiderate and leading the light-minded to self-examination. What the Saviour here holds up before His contemporaries, is now, as ever, of high significance for all impelled to come to Him by a superficial feeling. There exists a remarkable coincidence between the instruction here given, and the answer which the Saviour once gave a well-meaning scribe, Matt. 8:19, 20.
2. As this instruction has high significance for the beginning, so has it not less for the continuance and completion, of the Christian life. How many a one accounts all as accomplished when he finds a beginning of the new life, a pietistic awakening in his heart, and believes that therewith all is won. The Saviour gives such to consider that it is of the least possible value if one even comes to Him once, but does not go along steadily behind Him, and that a genuine disciple must be recognized at least by two traits of character: by not beginning before all is maturely weighed, and also, after such a beginning, by not ceasing before all is completely accomplished. Thus is the saying justified: “It is easier to throw away the life, than to live it Christianly.” Nitzsch. The beginning signifies nothing unless it leads to the end; a good ending is impossible without careful calculation and continually renewed exertion of all inward powers. Only then is the lofty destination of the Christian life, which is comprised in two words, “Building and Warring,” happily attained.
3. The scoffing of the world at so much that calls itself Christian loses much of its surprising character if we consider how much half-Christianity there is, showing itself in all manner of forms, and coming forward with the pretension of being already complete Christianity. So long as the City of God shows so many incomplete towers and heaps of ruins, it cannot possibly make upon its enemies the impression of an impregnable fortress. The world is fully justified in laughing aloud or in secret at so many who have indeed a desire to distinguish themselves from it, but show no power to vanquish it.
4. But what if, even after careful calculation of forces, it should appear that one is not in a condition to build a tower, not in a condition to overcome the enemy? To this question the parable gives no answer, and we should certainly completely misunderstand the Saviour, if we from His words should conclude that in this case it is better not to think at all of building or warring. The tower must be built; the strife must be striven; the kingdom of heaven must at any price and above all be sought. But when the severe requirement of self-denial and of conflict has brought the sinner to the consciousness of his own impotency, then the Gospel composes our distress by assuring us that all which the Lord requires He Himself can give, and that what is impossible with men is now as ever possible with God, John 1:17; Matt. 19:26. This whole instruction, therefore, is admirably fitted to bring home to us the prayer of the old father: Da quod jubes, et jube quod vis.
5. Three times the Saviour warns His followers against the fate of the salt that has lost its savor, as He elsewhere speaks of the vine that is cut down and cast into the fire, John 15:6. To view such warnings as ideal threatenings, because they do not admit of being reconciled with the ecclesiastical dogma of the Perseverantia Sanctorum, is as arbitrary as to emphasize them at the cost of other declarations which appear to intimate exactly the opposite, e. g., John 10:28–30. It is obvious enough that the same subject in the Gospel is sometimes regarded from the theological, sometimes from the anthropological side; but that the warnings of the Saviour are quite as earnestly meant as His promises are true and faithful. It belongs to the hardest, but also to the noblest, problems of believing science, to investigate with continually greater profoundness the connection between freedom and the election of grace; to recognize with continually greater impartiality the connection of the Divine and the human factor in the work of salvation, and when the solution of every difficulty in this relation presents itself, perhaps, as impossible on this side the grave, to accord equally its due to the one truth on both sides, and to hope for the full explanation of the problem from the world where our knowledge shall no more be in part, 1 Cor. 13:9. In no case can a difference of opinion in respect to this mystery justify a lasting separation of really believing Evangelical Christians.
6. What is true of every individual and of Israel, is still true also of the Church of the New Testament, which is planted in the midst of the unbelieving world, in order as a purifying salt to preserve it from destruction. If it fails of this destination, it is wholly unprofitable, and deserves, therefore, to be rejected: comp. Rev. 2:5; 3:3–16. This word of the Saviour gives, therefore, into our hands the key to the answer of the question why so many a candlestick, whose flame burned lower and lower, has been finally taken away from its place. In the denunciation of this judgment, love speaks; in the carrying out of it, the most inexorable severity reveals itself.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
The Saviour is as far from being misled by a great number of followers, as from being discouraged by the decrease of their number, John 6:67.—The preacher of the Gospel also must propose severer requirements when a varied mixed throng follows him.—[“Large demands are often more attractive than large concessions”—a thought worthy of being well considered by the minister.—C. C. S.]—The hatred and the love of the genuine disciple of the Saviour.—Not all who outwardly follow Jesus come in truth to Him; not all who in the beginning come to Him persevere in following Him.—The hard and the easy side of the discipleship of the Saviour.—The disinterestedness of the Saviour over against the brief enthusiasm of the people.—The requirement of self-denying love to Jesus: 1. A seemingly preposterous and yet extremely simple; 2. a seemingly arbitrary and yet perfectly warranted; 3. a seemingly exaggerated and yet absolutely indispensable; 4. a seemingly harmful and yet infinitely blessed; 5. a seemingly superhuman and yet certainly practicable, requirement.—How the Saviour calls His disciples: 1. To earnest consideration before; 2. unconditional surrendery in; 3. to enduring watchfulness after, the resolution to follow Him.—The disciple of the Saviour called to build, and at the same time to war, Neh. 4:17.—Better never begun than only half-ended.—The discipleship of the Saviour a matter of special and earnest consideration.—We have to see to it: 1. What; 2. how; 3. why, we choose.—The Christian a builder: 1. Plan of building; 2. the cost of building; 3. the completion of building.—The scoffing of the world at half-religion: 1. Its fully warranted jest; 2. its terrible earnestness.—The Christian a valiant warrior: 1. The enemy; 2. the armor; 3. the conflict; 4. the event.—Even Christ left all to be our Saviour.—It is precisely the noblest things that are exposed to the greatest corruption.—The cast-away salt: 1. What it once was; 2. what it now is; 3. what it necessarily becomes.
STARKE:—CANSTEIN:—Christ is not concerned about the great number of hearers, but about the honest heart.—Nova Bibl. Tub.:—Self-love is death, and the suicide of the old man is life.—Believing, doing, and suffering, admit of no separation in religion.—Brentius:—God is served with no great Babylonian tower.—Christians must at the commencement of all things ever look at the end.—There is no lack of scoffers at true religion, but let us look to it that we give not cause and occasion for scoffing, comp. 1 Peter 3:16; Titus 2:7, 8.—Satan and the world leave here no peace to true Christians.—It is not always true that a Christian must forsake his own for Jesus’ sake, but a heart prepared thereto is required of all, Acts 21:13.—Whoever in and with Christ finds all, such a one can very easily for Christ’s sake lose all.—CANSTEIN:—True Christians are profitable to themselves and the world, in words and works, Col. 4:6, but hypocritical Christians are the most unprofitable men on earth, like spoiled salt.—BRENTIUS:—That a backsliding or apostasy from Christianity may not be accounted a small thing, for this reason has the Lord Jesus added so strong and powerful an awakening voice: Oh that they were wise.
ZIMMERMANN:—Weighty questions for every one that will enter into the kingdom of God: 1. What shouldst and wilt thou build? 2. against what hast thou to combat? 3. hast thou also means and energies for the carrying through of this strife?—The whole Pericope admirably adapted for a confirmation discourse. In the sphere of missions also advantageous for the answer of the question whether one can continue the building and conflict begun or not. The pro and contra admit of being weighed successively; the result of the consideration cannot be doubtful, but gives then new excitement to arouse to increased zeal.
Luke 14:34.—On the authority of B., [Cod. Sin.,] L., X., &c., we receive οὖν, with Tischendorf, [Tregelles (brackets it). Alford,] into the text.
Luke 14:34.—According to the testimony of B., D., [Cod. Sin.,] X., &c., καί must be here inserted, by which the force of the language is not a little heightened. “If even the salt itself becomes insipid, which least of all might be expected to lose its taste,” &c. Καί appears to have been omitted hero only because it is not found in Matt. 5:13; Mark 9:50.